Friday, March 9, 2018

Virginia Distilleries Want to Keep Profits from Tasting Room Sales, but ABC Fighting It

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 9:30 PM

Virginia craft distillery owners say they want their fair share of the profits from bottles sold in their tasting rooms.

But a pair of bills proposed in the General Assembly that would have helped with that died in the final week of this year’s session.

“The biggest thing for us, is it would put us on a level playing field with the breweries and wineries,” said Derek Ungerecht, the owner of Dead Reckoning Distillery in Norfolk. He opened a rum tasting room in January.

The bills would have allowed distilleries to keep the markup – imposed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board – from bottles sold in their tasting rooms.

Breweries, cideries and wineries don’t have markup added to retail prices by the ABC.

“Essentially we have one sector of the alcohol industry being treated completely different than the rest of the industry,” said Del. Nick Freitas, who sponsored one of the bills.

The markup on spirits is 69 percent on average, based on the bottle size and proof, according to the ABC. There are other fees, too – a state excise tax, a case handling fee, and other factors that go into setting the price of the bottle.

In an emailed statement, ABC CEO Travis Hill said allowing distilleries to keep the markup from bottles sold in their stores would create private retailers of distilled spirits. Also, the ABC would lose money to the tune of $4 million over the next two years. How much money would be lost after that is disputed by different groups.

“Virginia ABC supports the continued growth of Virginia distilleries, but believes continuing to implement policies that benefit the entire industry is the better approach than putting a $4 million hold in the state budget, especially as the General Assembly seeks to find money to fund important state programs,” Hill wrote.

Hill added that the ABC has already done a lot to help distilleries, like lifting restrictions that didn’t allow them to have stores. Since that move in 2015, the number of distilleries has tripled from 20 to 60, and distillery stores have grown from 15 to 40.

He also notes that last year the ABC started allowing distilleries to sell to restaurants directly, and ABC gives Virginia distilleries “greater consideration” than out-of-state brands when deciding to stock their products in the 370 stores.

But distillery owners want more.

Keeping more of their profits would make Virginia craft distilleries more competitive with ones around the country, said Josh Canada, an owner of Tarnished Truth, the distillery inside The Cavalier. It would be “an absolute game-changer for Virginia distilleries,” he said.

To read more of the story visit the Virginian-Pilot.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Comfort Switches Its Business Model to Focus on Charity

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Cuisine With a Cause

Local restaurateur Jason Alley wants to give back. Last week he [and co-owner Michele Jones] announced that their downtown Southern restaurant Comfort will shift its business model to focus on ending hunger in the greater Richmond area" by donating all of its net profits to local hunger-relief organization FeedMore.

"When you're looking at how to be effective when giving back, those guys are a no-brainer," Alley says of the charity. "They're really excited to partner with us, and it just all made sense."

Comfort will begin hosting fundraising events and awareness campaigns to benefit FeedMore, and guests at the restaurant have the option of donating extra money on top of the dinner check.

"The intention has never been to get exceedingly wealthy," he says. "We want to be able to take care of our families and give back, and that giving back is something that's really important to us."

New Brew in View

Because we just can't get enough beer in this city, a new brewery will make its debut this weekend. Canon & Draw Brewing Co., at 1527 W. Main St. in the Fan, will open for business at noon on Saturday, March 10. One of the flagship beers will be River City Tap Water, a crisp American lager with 5 percent alcohol.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Virginia Wine Expo Returns and Other Food News

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 9:59 AM

Wine about it

It may be called the Virginia Wine Expo, but there's more to it than just wine. (Not that we'd have any fight with an event devoted entirely to wine.) The event takes place over the first weekend in March, and a $55 ticket will give you general admission access to a three-hour walk-around grand tasting. Hundreds of Virginia wines, ciders and spirits, plus wine from Oregon, Australia and New Zealand, will be available for tasting. Don't worry, there will be artisanal food available to soak it all up. With an $80 VIP ticket you'll also get handpicked wines from "many of the most prestigious Virginia wineries around the state." Other sessions at the expo include Burger Blast (freshly-made slider-sized burgers by more than a dozen local chefs) and a Noodle and Dumpling Affair, a grazing event that's exactly what it sounds like. Tickets are available at virginiawineexpo.com.

Cider with a side of freedom

On March 21, Blue Bee Cidery will hold a five-course meal with cider pairings to raise awareness and funds for human trafficking victims. Local chef Brittanny Anderson of Brenner Pass, Chairlift and Metzger Bar & Butchery will prepare a five-course meal, and women representing seven Virginia cideries will provide and pour cider. Tickets, available at bluebeecidery.com, are $85 per person, and proceeds will benefit the Human Trafficking Institute.  

Local goes global

Last week, five breweries represented Virginia across the pond at Craft Beer Rising, the biggest beer festival in the United Kingdom. Champion Brewing Co., which originated in Charlottesville and has a downtown location in Richmond, and Goochland's Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery offered two of their best brews at the Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers booth. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery also made an appearance at the festival, with beers served through the U.K.-based importer American Craft Beer Co.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Stone Brewing Files Lawsuit and Other Food News

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 10:21 AM

David and Goliath

Last week, California-based craft beer-maker Stone Brewing, which has a brewery here in Richmond, filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors. Yes, that MillerCoors. According to Stone's news release, the suit alleges that the world's largest beer conglomerate has re-branded its Keystone beer as just "Stone."   

In the news release, Stone Brewing's chief executive says Keystone's re-branding is no accident.

"MillerCoors tried to register our name years ago and was rejected.  Now its marketing team is making 30-pack boxes stacked high with nothing but the word 'Stone' visible. Same for Keystone's social media, which almost uniformly has dropped the 'Key,'" he says. "We will not stand for this kind of overtly and aggressively deceptive advertising. Frankly, MillerCoors should be ashamed."

Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch stated on Twitter that it's "best we focus on brewing great beer," and thus won't be responding to questions about the lawsuit. MillerCoors did not respond to a request for comment.

Looking ahead

Remember last week when we mentioned that Don't Look Back will open a new location on Forest Hill Avenue this summer? Well when it rains it pours, because the taco spot with a cult following just posted a photo of the old bar sign of the defunct Triple bar in Scott's Addition. And yes, that means exactly what you hope it means — according to the restaurant's website, the Triple location will open this spring.

Movin' on up

Last week, the Answer Brewpub announced on Facebook that its head brewer Brandon Tolbert will soon venture out on his own to open (surprise!) a new brewery. We don't know much about the forthcoming Safety Team Brewing Co. at this point, but we'll keep you posted.   

Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene? Send it to shortorder@styleweekly.com.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Check Out The Richmond Semifinalists for 2018 James Beard Awards

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 12:20 PM

Many of our own have been nominated for some of the most prestigious food-and-drink awards in the country, the Oscars of the culinary world.

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2018 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists this morning, and Richmond made the list not once, not twice, but three times.

Sibling duo Evrim and Evin Dogu, co-owners of Sub Rosa Bakery, are both named as semifinalists for Outstanding Baker.

In the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category, Brittanny Anderson is up against 19 other chefs. Anderson has been known for her rustic Church Hill restaurant Metzger Bar & Butchery, but it’s the much-acclaimed Brenner Pass in Scott’s Addition that landed her on this year’s list.

Unsurprisingly, the third Richmonder on the list gives a nod to our beloved beer scene: An Bui owner of Mekong, the West Broad Street Vietnamese restaurant with dozens of beers on tap, is a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional.

Bui says he’s never been able to grow a beard. So when friends, family and food writers started reaching out on Thursday morning, congratulating him for his James Beard Foundation nomination, he was confused.

“I was like, what is going on, who is this James Beard guy?” he says. “Everyone says it’s a big deal. I’m just speechless. It still hasn’t hit me yet.”

The nominees will be announced in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 14 during a live-streamed event, and the 2018 James Beard Award Gala will take place in Chicago on Monday, May 7.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Don’t Look Back Is Coming to Forest Hill Avenue This Summer and Other Food News

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 10:21 AM

Taco lookout

When Don't Look Back updated its Facebook page last December, the news was cautiously optimistic—no "concrete answers" about whether the taco restaurant would reopen in its original Carytown spot, but a second location may be on the horizon. Lo and behold, a Feb. 2 Facebook post announced that Don't Look Back is coming to Forest Hill Avenue this summer. And there was much rejoicing.

According to owner Nate Gutierrez, the building is just a shell right now, but when all's said and done it'll be serving up the same tacos and margs (plus a few additional kid-friendly options). It's been a while since the doors closed in Carytown, so here's a refresher on the menu: tacos with fillings like shredded beef, chorizo, carnitas, potatoes, portobello mushrooms, shrimp and tofu, served on flour or corn tortillas, either gringo style with cheese, lettuce, sour cream and salsa, or traditional with cilantro, red onion and lime.  

As for the original restaurant?  

"The Carytown building is still tied up with banks and red tape," Gutierrez says. "It would have been nice to start rebuilding right away but it's out of our hands."  

Patience is a virtue

Fan dwellers, it's almost here — a brewery you can walk to without crossing Broad Street. Steam Bell Beer Works owners Brad and Brittany Cooper announced last spring that a brewery near Virginia Commonwealth University was on the horizon, and we've finally got an opening date. Canon & Draw Brewing Co. at 1529 W. Main St. will officially open its doors at noon on Saturday, March 10.

Also opening next month is the much-anticipated ZZQ. Chris Fultz and Alex Graf launched ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue in 2013, and Richmonders have since fallen head over heels for the brisket, burnt ends and jalapeño mac and cheese it has been serving at catered events, pop-ups and breweries. In late 2016 the pitmasters announced their plans to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 3201 W. Mooore St. in Scott's Addition, and at long last we have a date: Saturday, March 3.

And the winner is. …

There's still time to buy your tickets to the Elby Awards, Richmond Magazine's annual recognition ceremony and dinner celebrating the folks behind our favorite food and drink in town. Tickets for the Feb. 18 event, held at the train shed at Main Street Station, are $120 and available at richmondmagazine.com. Categories include best new restaurant, chef of the year, front-of-the-house personality, brewery of the year, family-friendly restaurant and promoter of sustainability.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Nick’s International Market Reopens on Westwood Avenue

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Andrew Baker and his wife have been making the 75-mile trek from Newport News to Nick's International Market every few months for more than 50 years.

They don't intend to stop now that the shop has moved from Broad Street to Westwood Avenue.

Eschewing the interstate, they take back roads to and from Richmond, motivated by the promise of honey, cookies and cheese from their native Crete.

It was exactly those kinds of foodstuffs that inspired original owner Nick Mouris, also born on the island of Crete, to broaden his inventory in 1967 from produce to international foods.

Opened to the public on Jan. 18, the latest iteration of Nick's is both familiar and surprising, mainly because the new store is much roomier than the cramped quarters on Broad. For owner Manuel Mouris, Nick's son, it's the culmination of getting to start from scratch by gutting the space and building it out to best suit the market.

Like a proud papa, he shows off the spacious aisles, extended wine selection and impressive cheese array, but his most effusive praise is reserved for the back of the building. The equivalent of a warehouse, there's more space — storage, refrigerated and freezer — than the entirety of the former Nick's.

Pointing at two pallets of feta cheese, Mouris seems about to bust his buttons.

"That took us 15 minutes to unload," he humble brags. "It would've broken our backs and taken two hours at Broad Street because we were so jammed up with so little room."

While some knew and loved the original location of Nick's solely for the hearty and habit-forming subs that drew legions of daily regulars, folks like the Bakers are devoted to the store because its Mediterranean products are imported directly. Similarly, local restaurateurs wanting the real deal are also regular customers.

"This Kyknos tomato paste? It's so much thicker than regular tomato paste. It's a mainstay in Stella's cooking," Mouris explains, referring to Richmond's patron saint of Greek food, Stella Dikos and her eponymous restaurants.

A walk through the expansive aisles reveals one temptation after another: 3-liter cans of Hermes olive oil, gallon-size jars of Krinos pepperoncini, Greek fruit preserves, olive oil soaps, frozen spanikopita and tiropita made in Greece. One of Bon Appetit magazine's food trends for 2018 — tinned seafood — is well represented on an end cap loaded with the bounty of the sea in cans: cod, sardines, calamari, tuna and squid. Virginia shows up with Edwards hams, bacon and sausages, plus Old Mansion spices made in Petersburg.

In addition to roomier digs and an abundance of storage, part of the plan for the new location is to join the 21st century. As anyone who's ever made a purchase can attest, Nick's hasn't exactly been on the cutting edge of technology, but that's changing, thanks to operations manager and recent Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Elias Burrell, who worked part-time at Nick's as a student. Always fascinated by the grocery business, he saw an opportunity to put into practice what he learned in business school.

Part of that will be an update to the point-of-sale and inventory systems, but Burrell imagines an even wider audience for Nick's products than Virginia.

"There's a big opportunity in online sales, especially for the younger Greek generations. Also for restaurants," he says. "We think that pushing out of our comfort zone by integrating new technology is going to be great for business."

One thing that won't change is some shoppers' preference to browse a brick-and-mortar store rather than a website. The new location, just off Broad, offers a far more comfortable shopping experience with an expanded inventory, not to mention a parking lot. Take that, Broad Street.

And now it's time to acknowledge the elephant in the room, the new reality at Nick's: It's out of the sandwich-making business. But the good news is you can still get everything you need to make your own, sliced to order. And gregarious counterman Toney "Talk-to-Me" Wiley, who's been serving up the soups and sandwiches since 1998, now roams the shop, eager to assist customers.

Besides, if your sole interest in Nick's is those fabulous sandwiches, you're missing the point. Just ask a loyal customer of a half-century. It all boils down to one thing for the Greek-born Baker.

"I can find everything from home here." S

Nick's International Market, 2413 Westwood Ave. Mondays - Fridays 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturdays 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Meals Tax Proposal, Little Nickel Opening and More

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Take a Hike

Last week, Mayor Lavar Stoney announced a proposal to raise the city's meals tax from 6 percent to 7.5 percent. Restaurant owners were surprised and displeased.  

"I obviously can't speak for every single restaurant owner in the city," says Rueger Restaurant Group's director of operations, Frank Brunetto. "But I have not met one person that is for it. Everyone I've talked to has been against it."

The current meals tax — which was raised to 6 percent in 2003 to pay for CenterStage—combined with the state and city's 5.3 percent sales tax means restaurant diners pay a taxes of 11.3 percent. The tax increase would bring that rate to 12.8 percent. According to the news release, the tax would generate more than $9 million in additional revenue, which Stoney says would be used to fund Richmond Public School facilities.

So what does this mean for you? Right now, a $30 dinner out costs you $33.39. With the new tax rate, you'll have to fork over $33.84.

Have Some Cents

It released the menu last week, and the team at Little Nickel has finally opened the doors. It's difficult to nail down a precise theme that encompasses the selection (Chinese-meets-Mediterranean-meets-Tiki-bar?), but here's a smattering of what it's serving up: Filipino-style egg rolls, octopus tostada, cheddar-apple griddle cake, lamb cheese steak, Hawaiian pork bowl and cauliflower la plancha. For now the 4702 Forest Hill Ave. spot is only open for lunch, Mondays-Fridays, but dinner service begins Friday, Feb. 9.

Burgers, Fries and Shake-ups

The original Carytown Burgers & Fries has been told its lease will end June 30, after which the Richmond Shopping Center owners will redevelop the property. Last week, a petition went up at change.org, asking for signatures in support of saving the nearly 20-year-old restaurant.

"We cannot allow multimillion dollar national corporations to push out beloved, homegrown RVA businesses like ours," says the petition. "This goes against the very core of what makes Carytown so unique and eclectic."

As of Monday morning, the petition had more than 10,000 signatures.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Jasper debuts in Carytown with soft opening

Posted By on Sat, Jan 27, 2018 at 4:00 PM

The freshly remodeled space is buzzing with equal parts elation and anticipation.

At the helm are some of the city’s most familiar bartenders: former Heritage owner Mattias Hägglund, Thomas “T” Leggett formerly of the Roosevelt, and Kevin Liu, who owns the Tin Pan and Carytown Cupcakes. Also running around are bar manager Brandon Peck, who also worked at the Roosevelt, and food and wine director Jeremy Wilson, who joined the team after stints at Heritage and NASA. The guys are quick but meticulous with cocktail shakers as fellow restaurateurs and industry folk mingle and congratulate them over craft beverages.

Welcome to the Jasper, Carytown's newest cocktail bar and restaurant, which officially opens to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Those in the know have been waiting for these doors to open for months -- with good reason. These veteran bar guys announced plans to open the Jasper last fall and have since created an extensive drink list served up in a speakeasy-style atmosphere with black-and-white tiles and a jaunty, 1920s-esque logo. Every detail has been thought out, down to the stand-up comedy playing over speakers in the non-gendered restrooms.

“Our goal is to be the best iteration of a neighborhood bar that can also do great cocktails,” explains Hägglund. “We want it to have a nice comfy atmosphere, with a little bit of a party atmosphere. Just a nice place that people are comfortable in.”

Front and center on the menu are 10 house cocktails, with each drink and description accompanied by a small icon displaying what it will look like. Several of the house cocktails feature tropical ingredients with surprising accompaniments, like the Blind Tiger (Jägermeister, banana, lime, grapefruit, bitters) and the Expat Willy (Scotch, orgeat, coconut, Jerry Thomas bitters, absinthe). Classics such as the Mexican Firing Squad (Blanco tequila, grenadine, lime, bitters) and the Hailstorm Julep (Laird’s apple brandy, Smith & Cross rum, port, mint) are also available.

Don’t be afraid to order off the menu. Creativity and ingenuity go a long way in the food and drink scene, but so does the ability to craft a perfectly balanced Old Fashioned (not on the menu) - and theirs is delicious.

“The menu is currently composed of what we know we like and think are successful,” says Hägglund, adding that experimentation was fairly limited due to the time it takes to acquire a liquor license. “Now that we have everything, as the menu kind of needs to grow and expand or rotate, we’ll have a little more freedom to do that and have some seasonality.”

The cocktails are the stars of the show, but there’s no shortage of other things to sip on. Six-ounce pours of house red and house white are available for $5 a piece, and the draft list features four beers (three from Virginia) and a dry cider. To pair with the drinks are a few “foodthings” such as the Saigon Sandwich (much like a banh mi, featuring hen liver pate and roast pork with pickled veggies, jalapeños, cilantro and kewpie mayo on a house-made baguette), French onion dip, pretzel bread with nori butter, and a bodega board of house-made Buffalo Creek beef jerky, Deer Creek cheddar, Marcona almonds and mustard.

“It’s all designed to be stuff that goes well with imbibing, executed in a way that is relatively low-maintenance,” says Hägglund. “Still as delicious as we can make it, fast to bring out, and available all night until closing.”

Located at 3113 W. Cary St. (right next to Carytown Cupcakes), the Jasper is open seven nights a week, 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

An interview with the owner of Miss Priss Tea. … plus other food and drink news.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 1:00 AM

It all started with an obituary — her own. When Patricia Bradby's business school professor instructed her to put pen to paper and write her own death announcement, she found herself visualizing her future in a way she hadn't considered.

"When you're forced to think about the legacy that you're going to leave behind, you start to think about what's important," Bradby says. "When I wrote that obituary, I actually wrote about this company. I said to myself somewhere down the line, even if not right away, I want to start a tea company."

And so began Miss Priss Tea, Bradby's Richmond-based catering service that provides Victorian-style tea parties for private events and pop-ups. Bradby loved playing host to afternoon tea for her friends when she lived in New York, and just a few months after returning to Richmond in November 2015, she held four teas for her first official client, Berkeley Plantation, during Historic Garden Week. Since then, she's served loose-leaf teas, finger sandwiches and scones against a backdrop of lace tablecloths and fresh floral arrangements for bridal showers, birthday parties and corporate events. And now that she's acquired teacups made out of melamine — less likely to break, less likely to give Bradby a heart attack when dropped by little hands — she's also expanded her services to include children's celebrations.

For those who can handle the responsibility of fragile, elegant china — mismatched but coordinated, which Bradby painstakingly and lovingly selects on frequent visits to antique stores — she offers what she hopes will be a new niche for her business: a bridal suite tea service.

"It's that time of day when the bride and bridesmaids are getting ready for the ceremony," she says. "Little bites and relaxing tea in the morning before the important day ahead of you, when you want something quick, nourishing and not messy."
A self-taught baker who started out with boxed cake mixes and sprinkles as a child, Bradby created a menu of classic tea time treats for clients to choose from. She makes little finger sandwiches with fillings such as prosciutto with fig, tomato pesto cream cheese and egg salad with bacon, plus sweets along the lines of chocolate-covered strawberries, lemon cake cookies, coconut macaroons and banana nut muffins. And what's an afternoon or morning tea without scones? Those she bakes in the buttermilk, blueberry, lemonade and cinnamon varieties, each served with clotted cream.  

Of course, the star of the show is the tea. Bradby gets most of it from Discover Teas, a now online-only company that used to have a storefront in Newport News. Her favorite is Miss Priss' Perfect Tea, a caffeinated blend she worked with the owners to create specifically for her business, featuring black tea, vanilla, bergamot, black currant, chamomile and lavender. Her menu includes four other caffeinated teas, two more blacks and two greens, plus five decaffeinated options, such as peppermint and other herbals.

Check out Bradby's upcoming collaborative farm-to-table tea dinner at the Broken Tulip on Sunday, Jan. 28. For $38 you'll get four courses of locally-sourced small bites prepared by chef David Crabtree-Logan, each paired with an American-grown tea. You can find tickets at missprisstea.com.  

Sweet spot

Who says dinner has to come before dessert? At the first ever Four Forks pop-up, the sweets are in the spotlight. Held in the Urban Roost at Lunch and Supper on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 25, the event will begin with heavy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. Once everyone has a seat (which will be assigned), three desserts, each paired with a beverage, will arrive as separate courses: bourbon creme brulee tart, blood orange and olive oil cake, and dark chocolate sticky toffee pudding. Tickets cost $50 a pop. Keep an eye on Four Forks' Facebook page for upcoming pop-ups and events.  

Farm fresh

After nearly 10 years of providing healthy and sustainable foods to thousands of people in the Richmond area, Shalom Farms is breaking new ground. Literally. The nonprofit recently acquired 5 acres of North Side land belonging to Union Presbyterian Seminary, part of the Westwood site. Shalom Farms relies heavily on volunteers to harvest the fruits and veggies, which are then distributed to people, families and organizations that need it.

Movin' on up

Good news for everyone who just wants to have a seat before digging into a granola-topped acai bowl: Ginger Juice is moving from its takeout-only spot in the Village to a larger storefront in the same shopping center. The menu, featuring cold-pressed juices, made-to-order smoothies, acai bowls and toast, (including the avocado variety, natch), will remain the same. Mark your calendars for the grand opening Tuesday, Feb. 13.

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